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The Art of Love: Dating in Portugal

When moving to a new country, the dating scene is perhaps a concern on your mind. Where to find partners, where to go on romantic dates, how to behave, what to wear, what to eat – the questions are many, but we’re here to help you through all things dating in Portugal.

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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The Art of Love: How does dating in Portugal go?

Love is universal, but the specificities of finding and keeping it vary from culture to culture. When relocating to Portugal, it’s important to get to know the ways of the national dating scene before making any moves in order to avoid displeasing your potential date. You could be making a move considered romantic and ordinary in your culture that’s actually viewed as offensive in Portugal, so all caution is needed.

The Portuguese are quite warm and given to love. It’s considered normal for teenagers to start dating each other around 9th/10th grade. Although a rather conservative country in some aspects, it is generally socially accepted for people to casually date, especially when young.

Dating traditions in Portugal

A few decades ago, it was common for people to get married young (18-25) to, typically, their first serious partner. And getting a divorce was almost not an option, since that brought heavy judgement from others socially. The couples victim of these expectations, aged 50-60 in the present day, have only recently started getting divorced after years of staying in loveless marriages, in a lot of cases. 

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Dating in Portugal in 2023

Nowadays things are a lot different. Portuguese people are increasingly getting married later in life. Just 33 years ago, in 1990, the average marriage age was 24 for women and 26 for men, whereas in 2022 it increased to 34 for women and 35 for men – pretty much a 10 year increase for both. The same phenomenon can be seen with having children – in 1990 the average age for the birth of the first child was 25, increasing to 31 in 2022.

This is due to a variety of factors, both national and international, and if it’s good or bad is up for each person to judge. But something that this switch definitely brought was more freedom to date and explore yourself and others before making any big decisions.

How do the Portuguese date?

Although warm and given, the Portuguese can be a little shy, and, in dating, things tend to go perhaps a bit slower than in other European countries such as Spain and Italy. Plus, the people here tend to be more reserved and to go on multiple dates before any big moves.

Where to meet people in Portugal

Whereas for teenagers and young adults it is easy to get to know people in school, university and between different friend groups, meeting new people can be difficult as a working adult. There are the usual ways: work, friends of friends, dance clubs, bars, events. But people find it increasingly hard to find potential partners as they grow older. So, naturally, a lot of people resort to online dating.

dating in portugal

Online Dating in Portugal

Just like every else in the world, online dating is now of the main ways for people to meet dates and potential partners. There’s the more natural way, which is social media – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, for example – but the infamous dating apps have only been growing in popularity. These are the most used in Portugal:

  • Tinder – If you’re reading this, you probably already know how Tinder works. It is perhaps the most well-known dating app in the world, and Portugal is no exception. You curate your profile, select your sexuality, age range and maximum distance and Tinder shows you all the profiles that fit your criteria. Many people have met their partners through the app, so it is always a good option – even if just for meeting new people in general!
  • Bumble – similar to Tinder, only it asks you more questions on an individual level and women have to message first, within 24 hours;
  • Badoo – If you’re not European, you probably haven’t heard of this one, but it is very popular, especially in Portugal and Spain. Its system is similar to Tinder and Bumble, but the target demographic is more on the older side.
The dating pool in Portugal

If you’ve been researching Portugal or are already living in the country, you have probably noticed that it is a small country, with a population of just 10 million people (for comparison, the population of the city of New York is 8.8 million and São Paulo’s is 11 million). The dating pool sizes are bigger in Lisbon and Porto but in more rural areas, it can be quite difficult to find your match – even online. And this, of course, is a bigger obstacle for foreigners, because of the language and culture barriers. If you’re LGBT, it can also be notably strenuous. However, if you’re planning to live in a bigger city, it should be completely fine! Even in the smaller regions, there’s nothing learning a bit of Portuguese and actively trying can’t solve.

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Dating Etiquette in Portugal

Where to go on a first date 

First dates are usually very casual in Portugal – a relaxed lunch, a café in a café (coffee shop), going for a walk in the park, a picnic – the options are endless. The Portuguese dating culture (and culture is general) is not very flashy – big displays of “romanticism” are not common. Moreover, they are actually seen as showing off and unauthentic. If you’re used to that sort of thing, try to be more casual and lighthearted. (Of course, this differs from person to person!)

Body language and greeting

In Portugal, initial greetings depend on situation and connection. The typical greeting between men is a handshake, whereas between men and women and women/women, two kisses on the cheeks is the standard. However, depending on how well you know the person you’re going on a first date with, a hug or two kisses on the cheeks could be more suitable. 

As previously stated, the Portuguese are a little shy, so physical advances on a first date are less common than what you’re perhaps used to. But, again, this varies from individual to individual. 

Gender roles 

If you’d like to date a local, you’ll possibly be surprised by how independent and straightforward Portuguese women are. This relates to the lack of dating rituals and display in Portuguese culture we mentioned above – in Portugal the need to show off manly qualities in not as common as in other countries. For example, the common practice in the country is for couples to split the bill or pay separately – especially younger people, who tend to have similar economic conditions. 

Moving into a relationship in Portugal

When things get serious between you and somebody, the word to use is “namorar”, which basically translates to “seriously dating”; “being together” and boyfriend/girlfriend titles. 

Meeting family

Family is extremely important to the Portuguese. If you’re young, it’s not unsual for the people you’ll meet to still live with their parents, since it is typical until your late 20s. Connection with family is everlasting, therefore it is a very important factor in a relationship. Even after leaving the home, it’s common for the immediate family to get together to have a meal on the weekend – usually Sundays. But, of course, this is something that’s specific to each person and couple.

Marriage

As previously stated, right now the average age for getting married in Portugal is 35 for men and 34 for women – a bit later than, for example, the United States, where it is 31 for men and 29 for women. Because of the natural advancement of society, there are also much fewer marriages nowadays in Portugal.

You can either have a religious marriage or just one by the law, formalized by a notary. And the option of a big wedding party or even no party at all is entirely yours. But traditional Portuguese weddings are big, ostentatious, full of people and traditional Portuguese music – a true celebration. But marriage should definitely be a well thought out decision, since Portugal unfortunately has a very high number of divorce – 60 out of 100 marriages.

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